John Kerry to meet with Chinese officials to discuss North Korea

The Chinese government is ready to talk, state media suggested.
By Elizabeth Shim  |  Jan. 25, 2016 at 10:29 PM
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BEIJING, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- John Kerry is to meet with Chinese officials Tuesday, and North Korea's nuclear program, cross-strait relations and the South China Sea dispute are expected to be at the center of discussions.

The Secretary of State, who began his Asia tour in Laos, is most likely to emphasize cooperation between Beijing and Washington on a stronger response to North Korea's Jan. 6 nuclear test, including tougher sanctions, China's state-owned Global Times reported.

The Chinese government is ready to talk, state media suggested.

"The North Korea problem, and sanctions in particular, is expected to be the biggest issue on the agenda, but there are many other areas that need to be addressed between China and the United States," Beijing's editorial stated Tuesday, local time.

Last week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said China is key to supporting resolutions against North Korea provocations, but the call for toughness may not be welcomed in Beijing.

The United States has suggested China could do more, and on Monday before leaving for Beijing, Kerry told reporters in Vientiane that North Korea's nuclear program also poses a threat to China and that he hopes to have a frank dialogue with his counterpart in Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said views of common interest are to be discussed during Kerry's visit, and that China hopes meetings would strengthen communication between the two countries.

Despite the challenges it faces with North Korea, China has told a South Korean official that it is in favor of strengthening sanctions.

The United States and China, however, are less likely to build consensus on Beijing's land reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

Australia, a U.S. regional ally, is considering taking part in "freedom of navigation" exercises to challenge China's claims in the South China Sea, News Corp. Australia Network reported Tuesday, local time.

In October, Australia signed a defense cooperation statement with the Pentagon, which included an agreement to enhance joint training with U.S. troops in the region.

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